Invisible Stories Episode 7 with Tina Alexis Allen
On today’s episode, I speak to Tina Alexis Allen, author of Hiding Out: A Memoir of Drugs, Deception, and Double Lives.
In this episode we discuss:
- Writing as a way to work through your trauma and past
- How your book can “pay it forward” for others who need to hear what you went through
- The impact your book has on individual readers and the feeling when they reach out to tell you this
- How your ability to be brave and courageous is good for you in your healing, but how that provides hope and helps heal others
Enjoy the episode!
Hiding Out by Tina Alexis Allen
Actress and playwright Tina Alexis Allen’s audacious memoir unravels her privileged suburban Catholic upbringing that was shaped by her formidable father—a man whose strict religious devotion and dedication to his large family hid his true nature and a life defined by deep secrets and dangerous lies.
The youngest of thirteen children in a devout Catholic family, Tina Alexis Allen grew up in 1980s suburban Maryland in a house ruled by her stern father, Sir John, an imposing, British-born authoritarian who had been knighted by the Pope. Sir John supported his large family running a successful travel agency that specialized in religious tours to the Holy Land and the Vatican for pious Catholics.
But his daughter, Tina, was no sweet and innocent Catholic girl. A smart-mouthed high school basketball prodigy, she harbored a painful secret: she liked girls. When Tina was eighteen her father discovered the truth about her sexuality. Instead of dragging her to the family priest and lecturing her with tearful sermons about sin and damnation, her father shocked her with his honest response. He, too, was gay.
The secret they shared about their sexuality brought father and daughter closer, and the two became trusted confidants and partners in a relationship that eventually spiraled out of control. Tina and Sir John spent nights dancing in gay clubs together, experimenting with drugs, and casual sex—all while keeping the rest of their family in the dark.
Outside of their wild clandestine escapades, Sir John made Tina his heir apparent at the travel agency. Drawn deeper into the business, Tina soon became suspicious of her father’s frequent business trips, his multiple passports and cache of documents, and the briefcases full of cash that mysteriously appeared and quickly vanished. Digging deeper, she uncovered a disturbing facet beyond the stunning double-life of the father she thought she knew.
A riveting and cinematic true tale stranger and twistier than fiction, Hiding Out is an astonishing story of self-discovery, family, secrets, and the power of the truth to set us free.
- Timestamp: 3:27: I am sure my background as a screenwriter is part of that, but I think it lends itself more to the fact that that’s actually the way it happened, and that there were so many shocking moments in real-time for me. […] The post had called it a page-turner, so I think it does lend itself to the screen very easily.”
- Timestamp: 4:25: Thirteen kids in a devoutly catholic family. And my father was so religious, so devoted, and connected to the church, he was actually knighted by the pope. So that’s sort of the context, the household, the rosary every night. All the religious celebrations, daily mass, etc. And when I was in [..} I had been both with men and women already, sexualized very young not by choice, initially, but then very active sexually both men and women. And I was in a relationship in my late teens with an older woman. My father got wind of it and basically outed me, and then at the same time proceeded to out himself to me. As the father of 13 kids, with the context I just gave you, you can understand how it could become quite shocking and thriller-esque almost. How are we going to manage this relationship in the throes of this Catholic household with all these people who assume him to be who he is, and me to be who I am. And now we dive into this rollercoaster of a father-daughter relationship in this family. Basically we are in the midst of these secrets and lies.”
- Timestamp: 7:21: “Well I think I knew my story was something that should be read, because of obviously the high level of drama and as I got older and also healed so much of my own traumas from my childhood which I do reference which I haven’t gotten into too much. I realized that I could pay this forward. So the book also is really a way for me to do that. So I think it was just a process, I don’t know if the moment happened. But I did play my father about 8 years, 7 years ago off-Broadway, and I told his story from his point of view, as him, as a man, called Secrets of a Holy Father. And some agents when I brought it out to L.A. saw it. One of them does a lot of book-to-screen and said you should write the book.”
- Timestamp: 9:03: “Well, I didn’t doubt myself because I had had a bit of a process with my family by sort of outing my father doing my solo show. Of course, it didn’t reach the kind of audience that I had a feeling my book would and therefore has been on Megan Kelly for example. So there were stakes that became higher. But had already been in a process, and realized who in my family was on board with it, who still wanted me to keep the secrets.”
- Timestamp: 10:20: “I guess there was one moment where I went “Wow, this is real.” It was pre-pub, maybe a couple of weeks. But it was coming out soon, and the Daily News, which is a quite sensational newspaper in New York, was going to cover it according to my publicist. And so I opened it, she texted me on a Sunday and said, actually it came out today. And I was sort of looking around the Daily News for a very small post in size review, and I open it to the center, and there’s like a two full-page spread with my big sensational headline.”
- Timestamp: 11:39: “It’s Hollywood and I am in the public eye and so did I want to be out out out, as opposed to sort of some people knew? And so that got real, and I thought, in the end, it’s about service. And serving a large group of people who may not have been able to feel the ability to tell their story, or the courage or the strength or the permission, or still being held under a thumb by family to keep secrets.”
- Timestamp: 12:26: “The last thing I just want to say is that this story is bigger than my family. And although it has ruffled feathers, it ruffles feathers when you haven’t faced what needs to be faced. That’s my opinion of life. Some people have looked at things, and some people have glanced at things. And I think if you have really looked, it’s easier. It’s easier to hold it like a matter of fact.”
- Timestamp: 13:30: Jenn: “You did this for a bigger purpose, a greater purpose. Are there specific stories that you remember that people came up to you and maybe shared with you that what you wrote helped them feel seen?” Tina: “Oh, Absolutely. I have had so many people reach out. A lot on social media privately obviously. A guy reached out to be who I did not know and said that he had never told anyone in his life ever, not his wife, not anyone, that he had been abused as a boy. And that he really had lived a life still traumatized by it. And that my frankness and directness and matter-of-factness about my own sexual abuse was so helpful to him that he had told his wife. And I could tell you ten more similar type things. But the gist of it is being brave and courageous is good for you, but is great for other people. You have no idea.”
- Timestamp: 16:25: “A lot of memoirs are written looking back. Mine is present. Mine is fully present, and what I write in my prologue, to paraphrase, is that I wanted to give that young voice of mine when I was in the throes of it, full permission to express anything she wanted. So it was as if I just got out of the way, let her get on the train, and drive. And it gets pretty wild at times, and it’s purposeful because I was really in terms of serving my own life and my own healing and my own process of moving everything forward. We all keep growing. She gets to have her time. You know, she gets to have that voice, she gets to say whatever she wants. So that was really the purpose for the angle if you will of where I wanted to drive it.”
- Timestamp: 19:13: Jenn: “Sometimes just sharing the raw vulnerable truth and letting the reader kind of come to their own conclusions. I think that’s a lot more powerful. Because my takeaway from your book versus someone else’s takeaway from your book could be two completely different things even if you had told us what you want that takeaway to be.
- Timestamp 20:40: “I find something called sense memory, sensory work if you will, that actors use—especially method actors— I think really getting into a scene whether you are writing it from the past or the present, meaning your current voice or your younger voice, either the first person or otherwise, I think really the senses are super helpful to get in. So, maybe even just spending a few moments before starting to write a scene of really putting yourself back there, from the smells you smelled as a child […] In a way we are all making it up because it’s our memory. So I think like any kind of sensory what am I smelling, what am I seeing, what am I tasting… that can bring you into the scene. Of course, it’s going to bring the reader in too. But even if you don’t talk about what you smell, if you are feeling it, it is very real and it allows you to transport yourself to the best of your ability back into the memory.”